Comets Tales: Kenins Ready for First Taste of Calder Cup Playoffs
by Mark Caswell, Jr.Apr 13, 2016
What a difference a day can make.
Ronalds Kenins left The AUD's parking lot after he contributed an assist and a +1 rating in the Comets win over the Binghamton Senators on Thursday, April 6, surely the last thing on his mind was boarding a plane bound for Calgary just hours later.
However, that is exactly what happened to the Riga, Latvia native. The Vancouver Canucks Twitter feed posted evidence of the call-up with a 13-second video of a dozen members of the team loosening up prior to their final road contest of the season. Deep within Calgary's Saddledome Arena, the pictured Canucks are kicking a soccer ball behind what is dubbed "the cage."
Kenins, a Comet less than 24 hours earlier, kicked, and eliminated Henrik Sedin from the pre-game drill. Hours before the puck is dropped on the western conference rivals, Kenins has already tasted victory - of the most personnel kind.
"It's difficult once you are in the NHL and then you are sent down,"confided Kenins just a handful of hours before being recalled by the Canucks. "It's a learning process."
Humbled and determined to be back in "The Show", a serious Kenins opened up on the grit he's needed in his game just to have made it back to Utica this year.
"I had a lot of injuries. For 14 weeks (at the end of last season) I was out. I couldn't get in the shape I wanted by the beginning of camp," said Kenins, who has logged 38 games with the Comets this season.
The recovery period Kenins speaks of was the result of his play in last spring's Stanley Cup playoffs, ironically against the Flames. The Latvian Olympian scored his first NHL playoff goal in Game 2 of the series. After Vancouver's elimination from the playoffs by Calgary, Kenins could only wait as the healing process took over.
"I never gave up,” told Kenins. “I stayed focused, to get in the best possible shape. You learn from your mistakes."
Believing that everything happens for a reason, in a serious tone throughout our conversation, Kenins promised a more positive future - in Vancouver and Utica.
After the Canucks wrapped up their season with a game against the Edmonton Oilers this past Saturday, Kenins made the flight back east to Utica, for his first taste of Calder Cup playoff action. That quick trip west, that recognition from the Canucks to make a return visit is just the thing to jump start an even more focused skater in Kenins.
"I look forward to the playoffs," Kenins declared.
There will be ample time to make another run, to make his case come September for a full-time spot on the Canucks roster once the books close on this AHL season. Home, for Kenins, in the off-season is split in two - Switzerland and Latvia.
The nine hour flight home allows Kenins time to reflect on where his career has come, and where he is projecting it to go. Zurich and Riga, Latvia's capitol (Kenin's hometown), are where Ronalds will prepare for what could be his third pro year in North America - all of which have come while under contract with the Canucks.
"Not so much time off," is how Kenins described his eagerness to stay on top of his game. "Maybe four weeks (off), then I start preparing."
For now, it's the Vancouver-Utica shuttle that Kenins remains familiar with. And Utica, which Kenins affectionately labels "a pretty little city", is happy to have him.